Singapore locals pay $72 million to enter mega casinos

Singapore collected $S93 million ($A72 million) from entry levies placed on locals visiting the city's two casinos in the first half, according to Josephine Teo, minister of state for the Finance Ministry.

The entrance fee of $S100 a day or $S2000 annually from citizens and permanent residents amounted to $S195 million in 2011, Teo said in Parliament. The government also collected more from the two casino-resort operators, Las Vegas Sands and Genting Singapore, with the net gain in tax revenue amounting to $S900 million in fiscal 2010 and $S1.1 billion the following year, she said.

"The casino operators have made more money, but at the same time it contributed to our tax revenues," Teo said. "Through these tax revenues, the government is able to provide support to Singaporeans in many areas and expand our resources."

Teo's comments, in response to a query from a lawmaker, comes as the government is seeking public feedback to strengthen its Casino Control Act to further control criminal activities, improve social safeguards and tax administration.

The proposed changes include limiting visits by "local, financially vulnerable patrons who visit the casinos frequently" and raising the maximum penalty imposed on casinos that flout the law to 10 per cent of gaming revenue from the existing limit of $S1 million, according to a document posted on the government's public consultation website.

The government has more than doubled its spending in the past two years to contain problem gambling, Teo said today. The levies aren't directly "ring-fenced" to finance such programs, she said.

Exclusion list

About 93,000 people are on a so-called exclusion list where they're prevented from entering the two casinos, she said. Punters who make six to 10 casino visits a month are considered "high frequency gamblers" and are estimated to number 4000 to 6000, the Sunday Times reported, citing Chan Chun Sing, acting community development minister.

Singapore added 15,000 citizens and residents to its list of 28,000 people banned from the city-state's two casinos in June amid concerns that low-income gamblers are betting larger amounts at the gaming resorts.

The island-city dropped its four-decade ban on casinos to boost tourism, with Las Vegas Sands and Genting Singapore spending more than $US10 billion on two gaming resorts that opened in 2010. Gross domestic product growth, visitor arrivals and visitor spending reached record highs that year.

Bloomberg

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